From Junk to Spam to Waste

So could a plumber's farts
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A recent Digital Life survey in Great Britain revealed that corporate social media is generally a failure, with organizations “generating mountains of digital waste, from friendless Facebook accounts to blogs no one reads.” And so in a long history of media, yet another medium has been turned into a source of noise pollution by direct marketers.

First there was the proliferation of junk mail that citizens received in their post boxes. With the dot com era came spam, an onslaught of unwanted email from marketers laying waste to your in box.

And now with social comes digital waste. Everyday we see endless streams of poorly disguised messaging and sales pitches. Even though you may not have opted in to it, your friends share the waste, or it shows up via a “social ad” placement.

Lest we think the phenomena of bad marketing limits itself to direct marketing, perhaps I can share with you some of the many the horrible pitches PR “pros” email me everyday thinking they just might get on this blog. Or simply turn on your television and watch the bad advertising.

Poorly executed marketing dominates every time and medium.

No wonder great marketing campaigns are so noteworthy. They stand out in comparison.

And therein lies the opportunity. With the bar so low, it becomes easier to win. We simply need to take the time to practice our craft, and mindfully attend to our communications, honing our craft so it resonates with our stakeholders. Success takes work, but when the competition is so bad it is very, very attainable.

What do you think about the general practice of marketing these days?


  • @Geoffliving:twitter looking at the study now, but this really does not surprise me. In most cases when you see marketing starting a social campaign or taking over a social program their first words are let’s monetize it. 

    I almost feel like email was the same way starting out Lilly White only to be Lohan in a matter of weeks. I like that communities tune out the poop content for the most part. Companies need someone to have the stones to stand up and say hey you over there, yeah you, you are doing it wrong

    • Oh my lord, you are so right about email being good, then really bad. Really bad.  Same with social. Commercial social media is generally as interesting as toilet paper.

  • I think the bar is so low in marketing because the market itself is so vested in pandering to lowest common denominators. Mediocre, cookie-cutter offerings so over-saturate the market, the industry has sort of degenerated into a game of who can most subtly convince the most consumers to buy (often through psychological subterfuge). And how many media business models are built almost entirely on the pursuit of ad revenue? It’s pie slicing vs. pie sizing. It’s a race to the bottom.

    The opportunity you mention lies in offering less “goods” in favor of more “betters.” People starved for meaning and long term value want quality that lasts and makes a genuine improvement in quality of life – not another subconsciously implied pseudo-benefit.

    Said it once, happy to say it again: products actually worth owning need no marketing – they market themselves.

    • It’s so funny that you said this — re: ad revenue. Of all the marketing disciplines, it is direct marketing that yields the most.  One to one relationships are so critical.  Having great relationships with your customers trumps all ads.  Look at Five Guys!  Do you see ads? No, you have great burgers and great customer care. The rest takes care of itself.

  • I remember back in 2007 when my blog was a place for my business to create tutorials and otherwise show that we knew what we were doing. That was more than enough to bring in the customers and create the community around my (now previous) business.

    Somewhere along the way I got into my head (perhaps in business school or perhaps just because I’m an American) that I needed to make my business bigger and started to look for ways to use social media to make that happen.

    Then came all the “rules” and “best practices” as social media became more mainstream. I remember clearly when I was asked if I was mad that Twitter went mainstream and was not clogged with people…

    As a marketer I bear some of the responsibility, spreading mantra like “share more of others stuff than yours” and other things that got away from community and made the medium more push than conversation.

    I’m going back to what and how social media used to be – personal. I’m not going to worry about how many tweets my posts get or what my ratio of other links to my links I share is.

    As for TV ads not a commercial break goes by where I say, out loud, “that ad sucked.” It’s a sad state of affairs out there right now as far as I see it.

    Yes we’re in massive global transition. Yes social media is maturing. Yes we’re all trying to figure it out, as always.

    But I think we can still do very well in business by focusing on who we can really matter to.

    • I like this comment, in particular because I, too, have had some serious temptations to be bigger than I am, but know this is not where my customers are, or how I want to make an impact. It’s a Faustian dance that you are talking about, but it’s always good to be on the other side of it.  Thank you for a reminder to stay focused!

  • I’m wondering if the recent changes in Google’s algorithms will start to change how content is created. It seems that Google is rewarding sites which regularly produce good content.  I imagine we’ll always have people and companies that take shortcuts, but that’s the case in all things, not just content and marketing.  Should be interesting to see how businesses adapt to Google’s recent changes.

  • Though I agree that poorly executed marketing dominates every type and medium, it’s in Social that it is at its most exciting. The interactivity and specificity has evolved on Facebook, for example, such that if one spends even a modicum of time honing ones preferences for Sponsored Stories, that those ads now are incredibly specific — I never see anything irrelevant in my Sponsored Stories any more!

    As the number of advertisers on Facebook increases, the opportunity for interactive to become more hyper-local and ABOUT community is surging. I’m excited that local artists and events show up in Sponsored Stories, as do specialty companies that align with my very specific personal preferences.

    Real headway could be made by making ALL advertising more interactive and allowing consumers the opportunity to approve or disapprove of marketing messages. We see Google AdSense taking advantage of this as well as Hulu.

    The SECOND this comes to broadcast TV, it will be a revolution.

    • Mariana:  You are very pumped up about this!  I’d love to invite you to guest blog about it. geoffliving [at] Let me know.

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  • You make a good point about crafting better content but I think that is only part of the battle.  The game has changed and yet people think it is just about making their content better than the next.  I agree you can’t create crappy content but in a world where most people filter out the noise based on content passed along by their most trusted networks marketers need to focus more on building a network of strategic relationships within the markets they want to reach.  No – I’m not talking about influence metrics or follower counts but truly understanding how people interact and share information so that they can strategically use how word of mouth naturally spreads.  How do you think content relates to that?

    • I think if a campaign is relying solely on the marketer’s network, then the campaign will fail.  The social marketer needs to work with a community to understand what the levers are in a community, usually some of them are not social, and activate them. Understanding those levers, those people, those blogs, those media outlets, those advertising media is essential.  Rarely is a social pure play successful. 

      But I do agree it is more than content, and you make a good point about this.

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